By University of Colorado at Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano:
In my five decades in higher education, never have I seen such divisive rhetoric and legislative action used to diminish public education—an institution as venerable as our democracy itself.
But one thing I have always believed is that America’s public universities are fundamental to a functioning democracy and a source of unlimited solutions. A strong democracy is associated with social mobility, civic engagement and a diverse, pluralistic society—all cornerstones of our country’s higher education system.
As the leader of Colorado’s flagship university and one of the nation’s leading research universities, I am committed to using my voice and to urging my fellow higher education leaders to do the same in the face of a wave of damaging actions and rhetoric that threaten free inquiry.
I am especially discouraged by the restrictions being proposed and imposed by state legislatures on educational institutions in places like Ohio, Florida and Texas. These restrictions chill discourse on campus and in the classroom, both places where dialogue is most crucial.
I am also troubled by the refusal of the Board of Trustees at my alma mater, Ohio State University, to appoint an interim president following the departure of former president Kristina Johnson in May, as good governance principles do not support having the trustees engaged in day-to-day operational oversight.
Adding to my concern is the rhetoric we hear on the national level from political candidates and elected officials who attack higher education and seek to strip institutions of tenure and academic freedom, both of which are essential to encouraging healthy debate, research and scholarship that is free from interference.